With the release of his legendary unfinished film The Other Side of the Wind last year, Orson Welles is back on movie lovers’ minds. So there’s never been a better time to delve deep into his complex legacy, as Chicago’s Gene Siskel Film Center has been doing this season with a sprawling, fourteen-program tribute that aims to counter what it calls the “ideological and biographical biases” that led to his late-career reputation as a wild and undisciplined artist. In the series’s next event, Jonathan Rosenbaum will be making the case for the director’s Othello, a brilliantly idiosyncratic take on the Shakespeare play that the critic goes so far as to hail as “arguably an even more important film in Welles’s career than Citizen Kane.” Made on a tiny budget and largely financed by the master himself, the movie is a model of resourcefulness, demonstrating Welles’s gift for crafting unforgettable images under the most compromised of conditions—while at the same time delivering a powerhouse performance as the Moor of Venice. At times, that visual ingenuity even transcends the source material: as Geoffrey O’Brien explains in his liner notes for our edition, “You may begin to wonder how much we even need the words. Here and elsewhere,Othello communicates as the most eloquent of silent films.”
Two Stark Visions of the American Underbelly Hit the Big Screen
A new restoration of the groundbreaking vérité documentary Streetwise joins its companion piece, Tiny: the Life of Eric Blackwell, at New York’s Metrograph theater this weekend.